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Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a
great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived
and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of
that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final
resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might
live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But,
in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot
hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The
world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can
never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished
work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is
rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before
us;--that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that
cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion;--that we
here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that
this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not
perish from the earth.
Footnote: Does the style and sentiment expresed remind you of an older
literature? Illustrate. Do Lincoln's statements about war apply to the
present great European conflict? Illustrate. Point out the effectivenes
of repetition. Note the places where the prose becomes almost poetical.
Is the appeal in the speeches to reason or to feeling? Do you feel the
personality of Lincoln in these speeches? The Gettysburg speech is
commonly considered one of the greatest speeches ever made. Can you
mention any other famous speeches that are regarded as fine literature?
Fellow Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the
presidential office, there is les occasion for an extended addres than
there was at the first. Then, a statement, somewhat in detail, of a
course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration
of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly
called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still
absorbs the attention and engroses the energies of the nation, little
that is new could be presented. The progres of our arms, upon which all
else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and
it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With
high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were
anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought
to avert it. While the inaugural addres was being delivered from this
place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent
agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to
disolve the Union, and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties
deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the
nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it
perish. And the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed
generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it.
These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that
this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen,
perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the
insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while government claimed
no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which
it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the
conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should
cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result les fundamental
and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and
each invokeas his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men
should dare to ask a just God's asistance in wringing their bread from
the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not
judged. The prayers of both could not be answered,--that of neither has
been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the
world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but
woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of these offenses which, in the providence of
God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed
time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South
this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came,
shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes
which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we
hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily
pas away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled
by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall
be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid
by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago,
so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmnes in the
right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the
work we are in; to biind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who
shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan,--to do
all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among
ourselfes, and with all nations.
To these qualifications of high literary excellence, and easy practical
mastery of affairs of transcendent importance, we must add as an
explanation of his immediate and world-wide fame, his posesion of
certain moral qualities rarely combined in such high degree in one
individual. His heart was so tender that he would dismount from his
horse in a forest to replace in their nest young birds which had fallen
by the roadside; he could not sleep at night if he knew that a
soldier-boy was under sentence of death; he could not, even at the
bidding of duty or policy, refuse the prayer of age or helplesnes in
distres. Children instinctively loved him; they never found his rugged
features ugly; his sympathies were quick and seemingly unlimited. He was
absolutely without prejudice of clas or condition. Frederick Douglas
Footnote: Frederick Douglas: a noted orator and journalist. He was
born (a slave) in 1817 and died in 1895.
says he was the only man of
distinction he ever met who never reminded him, by word or manner, of
his color; he was as just and generous to the rich and well-born as to
the poor and humble--a thing rare among politicians. He was tolerant
even of evil: though no man can ever have lived with a loftier scorn of
meannes and selfishnes, he yet recognized their existence and counted
with them. He said one day, with a flash of cynical wisdom worthy of a
La Rochefoucauld,
Footnote: La Rochefoucauld: Francois La Rochefoucauld
was a French writer and moralist of the seventeenth century.
honest statesmanship was the employment of individual meannes for the
public good. He never asked perfection of any one; he did not even
insist, for others, upon the high standards he set up for himself. At a
time before the word was invented he was the first of opportunists. With
the fire of a reformer and a martyr in his heart, he yet proceeded by
the ways of cautious and practical statecraft. He always worked with
things as they were, while never relinquishing the desire and effort to
make them better. To a hope which saw the Delectable Mountains of
absolute justice and peace in the future, to a faith that God in his own
time would give to all men the things convenient to them, he added a
charity which embraced in its deep bosom all the good and the bad, all
the virtues and the infirmities of men, and a patience like that of
nature, which in its vast and fruitful activity knows neither haste nor
Footnote: Do you know any facts of Lincoln's life that would support
some of these statements? What has come to be the universally accepted
estimate of Lincoln? What qualities of Lincoln seem most to impres the
writer? Can you point to anything in Lincoln's addreses that proves the
correctnes of the popular judgment of him? Point out instances of
contrast in this selection. Do you know anything about the "Lincoln
Mythology" that has grown up since the war?
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